Medical insurance in Israel for tourists and returning citizens: What are my options?
by Ronen Goldman, Director of Customer Relations, Goldfus Insurance
For many, travelling to Israel is filled with excitement and opportunity. Often tourists make the decision to extend their trip or consider the option of staying in Israel long-term on a student, work or temporary resident visa. One of their main considerations is the ability to receive medical care while in Israel. Other people who fall into this category are Toshavim Chozrim (Returning Residents), Ezrachim Olim (children born to Israeli parents who are making Aliyah) and Ktinim Chozrim (Returning Minors), who may not be eligible to join the public health system (via the Kupat Cholim) for the first six months of their Aliyah/return to Israel.
The Bituach Leumi (National Insurance Institute) bases eligibility to join the public health system on residency as opposed to citizenship. Although Bituach Leumi assesses this on a case-by-case basis, it may be possible for long term visa holders to apply to join one of the four kupat cholim only after they can prove that they have resided in Israel for more than six months. This poses a problem for people who would want to know they have some leve of health cover during the first six months.
There are 3 main options for health care insurance available to long term visa holders in Israel.
Travel insurance – Travel insurance is a must when travelling abroad. It covers emergency medical expenses during the period of travel. Most people purchase a travel insurance policy for a pre-determined number of days (usually from the date of departure to the date of return). Should a tourist wish to extend their trip, it may be possible to extend the travel insurance policy beyond the original dates. While this may be a short term solution, it may not be the most viable option for a tourist looking to become a long term visa holder as any non-emergency claim may need to be filed in the country of origin (where the policy was purchased). That means that reimbursement of medical expenses may only be provided months after the tourist paid out of pocket for the medical cover. Unless one has the ability to pay out of pocket or had the intention to return to their country of origin in the future, extending a travel insurance policy may not always be the best option.
Kupat Cholim (HMO) – Most of the Kupot Cholim offer tourists and non-residents a comprehensive health insurance policy. Purchasing a policy directly through the Kupat Cholim allows a long term visa holder to use the services and facilities of the Kupat Cholim as though they are part of the regular public health system. For non-residents who are in Israel for an extended period of time (such as diplomats or foreign workers) this option may offer the best solution.
Private health insurance – There are a number of insurance companies in Israel who offer a limited tourist insurance policy based on a daily premium. The policies offered give the option of using the services provided by the insurance company or using the services provided by one of the Kupot Cholim. The former, being the cheaper of the two options, limits the policy holder to a closed list of participating doctors. The latter, which is slightly more expensive, offers services and facilities provided by one the Kupot Cholim. In both options, there is a maximum level of cover which tends to be lower than purchasing a tourist insurance policy directly from the Kupat Cholim itself. Since the prices are calculated on a daily premium, the policy holder has the option to purchase the policy for as long as they need without being subject to monthly premiums and paying for time when the policy is not required.
With a number of options available, finding the right policy is dependent on factors such as travel plans, the reason for the extended stay in Israel, the need for the policy and budget. The age of the individual may also be a factor regarding the eligibility to enter certain policies. It is important to investigate the options in order to find a suitable and affordable policy that will give you peace of mind during your time in Israel.
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